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Christian ethnic groups harassed and abused by Burmese army

Country/Region: Myanmar, Burma, South and East Asia

A conference of over 1,000 Chin Christians was disrupted by Burmese soldiers, while a brutal military offensive against another predominantly Christian ethnic group continues.

Several soldiers interrupted the gathering of delegates from 80 local branches of the Chin Evangelical Church at Sabawngte village in Matupi Township, southern Chin state, on 10 March. 

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Ethnic minority Christians are often targeted by the Burmese military

They rebuked the village headman for not informing them about the event, although permission had been obtained, as required for Christian gatherings, from the township general administrative office.

Pu Van Cin, a Chin MP from the Ethnic National Development Party, had a gun pointed at his stomach by an army captain when he tried to intervene.  

The soldiers continued to disrupt the conference for the rest of the day, and at night, as the worship service was about to begin, a captain carrying a gun entered the makeshift church while ten soldiers stood guard around it. They returned to their camp the next day.

The conference, which ran from 8-13 March, then continued without further disruption.

The Chin are estimated to be 90% Christian. Most Christians in Burma are from non-Burman ethnic minorities; they are frequently targeted by the military because of both their faith and their ethnicity.

Salai Za Uk Ling, program director for the Chin Human Rights Organisation, said, “It is very difficult for Chin Christians to hold large gatherings without harassment and disruption.”

Brutal offensive continues

Elsewhere, in Kachin – another predominantly Christian state – the Burmese military is continuing its brutal offensive; this has led to the displacement of some 75,000 people, who are in desperate need of food, medicine and shelter.

Human Rights Watch said that the Burmese army has attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties, threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. Children as young as 14 have been conscripted as forced labourers.

The military launched its offensive in Kachin State in June; it broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organisation, which controls the territory, by attacking ethnic forces.

Soldiers have seized churches, fired at worshippers and imposed severe restrictions on Christian activities. 

Reforms commended

Burma has been commended by the international community for the recent human rights and pro-democracy reforms it has made, but continuing abuses against the predominantly Christian ethnic-minority groups show that the country still has a long way to go.

There is hope of further improvement, as by-elections on 1 April have been opened up to the opposition. The greatly respected pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is running for a seat in the national parliament. 

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 6 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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